COVID-19: Accessing ADLC Resources

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This is an update to the ongoing dialogue between the Ministry of Education and Pembina Hills School Division in regard to the pending conclusion of the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC) Service Agreement.

On April 22, 2020, the Board of Trustees met via video conference with Minister LaGrange and some of her staff to continue the discussion about Alberta Distance Learning Centre.

Board Chair, Jennifer Tuininga, listed the information that had been provided to the Minister’s office to date. A full list is provided at the end of this article.

Support for Learning-at-Home during the COVID-19 Pandemic

While the Minister did not have questions about the information that has already been shared, she had other questions. She requested information on how ADLC is serving teachers and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister LaGrange described concerns that the Ministry had received regarding ADLC’s contact with Alberta school authority staff.

  • Chair Tuininga updated the Minister regarding ADLC’s role in supporting schools, teachers and students during the pandemic.
    • Since the cancellation of school classes on March 16th, the demand for ADLC services has grown substantially. To date 41% of Alberta teachers and 68% of the schools across Alberta have registered to access ADLC services.
  • Chair Tuininga emphasized that ADLC’s infrastructure has been able to handle the increased demand.
    • ADLC has been a center of excellence in the delivery of distance education for decades.
      ADLC was able to share this experience with teachers who attended virtual training sessions.
    • Supplying schools and teachers with the means to provide instruction to students in unusual circumstances is part of ADLC’s mandate.
  • Principal Kaplan explained that updates are published as News items on the ADLC website and circulated to a list of email subscribers.
  • Superintendent Garbutt asked that the Ministry forward any such concerns to him so he can address them directly.

Interpretation of data 

Minister LaGrange requested further explanations about diploma exam results, PAT participation, and course completions.

  • The administration agreed to provide further review and analysis of these measures.

Perceptions from School Authority Superintendents

Minister LaGrange’s team reiterated the feedback they had gathered from school authority superintendents. They suggested that school authorities can provide online education services effectively on their own.  While the majority of the current online schools use ADLC courses and in some cases, ADLC infrastructure, the belief is that ADLC is unfairly funded. The Ministry is responding to requests from these school divisions for a different model that shares the funding across the province.

  • Chair Tuininga noted that while school authority leaders have provided a perspective, the users (Distance Education Facilitators) at the school level provided a differing perspective through a survey conducted shortly after the funding changes were announced.

The Deputy Minister invited Superintendent Garbutt to join him in a meeting with the CASS (College of Alberta School Superintendents) Board of Directors to discuss distance education services.

ADLC services fill gaps for students across Alberta

Chair Tuininga reiterated that ADLC services fill gaps for students across Alberta.

  • Schools can choose to have ADLC deliver content directly to students, or teachers can choose to use the course content with their own students.
  • ADLC is unique in that it does not need to be an all-or-nothing solution. Many students receive instruction for parts of courses, and many teachers select specific units, resources or assessments from existing courses.
    • While a school may register a student in an ADLC course, the student might complete the course with their own school.
    • A student may have already completed the course with their own school and request an opportunity to improve their mark.  Their school may register them in the ADLC course and they receive instruction for the part of the course they wish to upgrade.
    • A side effect of that sort of gap-filling is that it reduces the ADLC course completion rate.
  • The fact that students who use parts of ADLC courses have their needs met is more important than the statistic.

Because distance education services in Alberta are a critical part of thousands of students’ lives, Pembina Hills will continue to explain to the Minister and her staff how Alberta’s students benefit from ADLC’s provincial mandate.

The Minister concluded the meeting with a commitment to continue talking and expressed a desire to visit ADLC in person.

Information Provided to date

The following  information was provided to Deputy Minister Andre Corbould, and Assistant Deputy Ministers Gene Williams and Michael Walter at a meeting with Superintendent David Garbutt, ADLC Principal Steven Kaplan, Secretary Treasurer Tracy Leigh, and Outgoing Secretary Treasurer Tracy Meunier on March 23, 2020.  The Deputy Minister committed to briefing Minister LaGrange on the information that was provided. The information included:

  • The number of school authorities, schools and students served by ADLC
  • The significant changes we have made to the structure of ADLC at the request of Alberta Education over the past few years
  • A summary of the feedback we received from distance education facilitators
  • An explanation regarding ADLC’s completion rates
  • The cost effectiveness of ADLC
  • The ways that ADLC “levels the playing field” for provincial school authorities
  • The ways that ADLC reduces “red tape” for school partners
  • The history of how ADLC has supported the province through emergency and contingency services
  • A copy of the over 700 responses accompanied by approximately 400 comments from schools distance education facilitators, (the teachers, support staff or school administrators at partner schools) – collected by survey in just 7 days
  • A list of the ADLC Partner Schools in the province
  • A list of school authorities served in the province including the number of schools, courses, teachers and student enrolments
  • ADLC Diploma Exam results
  • A list of the province’s online schools showing that all but a few are currently served by ADLC.